She's a star student who's full of passion, but she knows one phone call could wreck it all.
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Open Society Foundations

This is Sofia.

In some ways, she's just like anyone her age.

She grew up in California; she's a graduate student; she has hopes and dreams and fears.



But in other ways, she couldn't be more different: she is undocumented.

Sofia grew up in the US, but she was born elsewhere. And because of that, her mere existence in the US is illegal. Take a minute to really let those words soak in. She says, "My being is illegal."

Sometimes she is scared — even terrified.

She knows that there is a huge risk to sharing her story. Because of the law, she has to fear for herself and her family — not to mention her friends.

But mostly, she is undocumented, unafraid, and unapologetic.

Why? Because she knows that her status is not her fault. The injustice that lives within our laws today is not her fault.

To hear the entirety of Sofia's passionate speech, check out the video below.

FACT CHECK TIME! Here's a bit more info on the politics of what Sofia is talking about:

  • Sofia's situation may be more common than you think. In fact, there may be as many as 2 million undocumented youth in America.
  • While Sofia doesn't specifically talk about the DREAM Act, it's worth mentioning here. The DREAM Act is a proposed bill that's been hanging around Congress in some form since 2001. If passed in its most recent version, it would grant legal status to qualifying undocumented immigrants who meet a set of very specific, pretty-darn-hard-to-meet criteria.
  • In 2012, President Obama began the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Program, which Sofia refers to in her speech. This program grants temporary work permits to undocumented immigrants who entered the U.S. before their 16th birthday and before 2007. Unlike the DREAM Act (which, remember, hasn't passed), DACA does not provide a path to citizenship.
  • In November 2014, President Obama announced a series of executive actions on immigration. These actions include cracking down on illegal immigration at the border, allowing a little more leeway on who can request to stay in the U.S. without fear of deportation, and requiring things like background checks for undocumented immigrants requesting to remain in the U.S. These were actually announced just after Sofia's speech, and she does mention that folks were expecting an announcement of the sort soon.
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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.